Much Anticipated Tokyo Fest Begins
by Andrew Thomas
The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) began Friday (running
through to October 6th), with capacity audiences and high levels of
anticipation from both public and press. Asia's largest movie festival has
been criticised for organisational and programming glitches but to the highly
enthusiastic and knowledgable audiences here, it's a great opportunity to
view quality world cinema at specially discounted prices.
Japanese admission fees (typically $18-20) are by far the most expensive in
the world, with no guarantee of actually having a seat after you've bought
the ticket. Add this to the dubious quality of most of the theatres and
venues, and your average punter here has a pretty rough deal. All the more
reason to enjoy the relative comfort and 'glamour' of this year's event at
Shibuya's Bunkamura Arts Centre.
Expectations are high for the International Competition especially
considering that last year the jury did not nominate an award-winner. Amid
much controversy, they felt that none of the films entered were of sufficient
quality to merit a prize, which speaks volumes for either the films
themselves, or perhaps just the jury members.
This years line-up includes Vincente Aranda's "Libertarias" set during the
Spanish Civil War, "Death and The Compass", Alex Cox's adaptation of the Jorge-Luis Borges film,
and from China, Wu Tian-Ming's "The King of Masks". In the Young Cinema
competition which seeks to 'explore new talent', the North American films are
"House","Bandwagon",and "Curdled" and others include Hong Sang-soo's twisted
Korean menage-a-trois "The Day a Pig Fell In The Well" and "Focus" by new
Japanese director Isaka Satoshi. The Asian Cinema focus is continued with a
"Best Of..." strand and the Nippon Cinema Classics presenting recently
recovered stock or reprints of Japanese cinema from the 20's and 30's. The
International Women's Film Week combines a comprehensive programme of fiction
and documentary, as does the Fantastic Film Festival - a real mixed bag,
from Tim Burton's "Vincent" to Abel Ferrera's "The Addiction".
"Independence Day" opened and drew the crowds but I sneaked off to something
far more enlightening. 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano, having recovered from last
year's near-fatal motorcycle crash was appearing at a symposium to discuss
his work and to introduce a retrospective of his films to date, including
the recently released "Kids Return". Visibly affected by the recent trauma,
Takeshi nervously, modestly and most typically comically engaged with the
panel of assorted film critics probably most responsible for raising his
profile and promoting his work outside of Japan. The added bonus was a
comparative study of Takeshi's work and that of Taiwanese director Hou
Hsiao-Hsien, who have recently become friends, and was also present. Hou
noted the parallel elements running through Asian films whether from Taiwan,
Japan, or Hong Kong, flavoured by the influence of each nation's cinema
tradition and the director's personal vision. For a nightcap I again viewed
Takeshi's masterpiece "Sonatine" and was really amazed at the stillness and
composure of Kitano's style, so totally different to the man himself.
Great actor and an absorbing movie director.
Saturday began with the Brazilian film "O Quatriho", a period
story of immigrant Italians' determination to persue life,love,and liberty in
a pioneer town - great performances, cinematography, music - and could be a
production to rejuvenate the Brazilian film industry. It is the first release
following new tax-break legislation in Brazil introduced to revitalise a
virtually non-existant sector. With a $2 million budget director Fabio
Baretto has seemingly no interest in taking the next plane to Hollywood and
will remain resolutely independent.
Canadian director Laurie Lynd teamed with writer and performer Daniel
MacIvor to produce "House", an adaptation from theatre/stand-up routines and
has off-beat characterisation and plenty wit and splendid story-telling to
merit its entry into the "Recent-Canadian-Films-That-I-Liked-AND-Recommend"
category, so demonstrating the vitality and vision of performers and
filmmakers in North North America.......and so from East East Asia,
[Andrew Thomas will be contributing regular reports from the Tokyo
International Film Festival. Andy is a Tokyo-based producer/director and
writer on film and performance art who has recently relocated to Japan from Britain as
part of cultural exchange "experiment".]